It has been a busy couple weeks! THE race I have been waiting for has come and gone. I can't believe it! Around a year ago there was a rumor that TriCats was going to have a separate elite-type group that would consist of the five or so fastest guys and girls on the team. I made my goal for last summer to get to the point where I was confident that I could not be left out of that group. That meant training a LOT, whenever I had the chance. See, this was also an important time for other (important) parts of my life. My second daughter was born on June 3, 2008 via C-section. This meant that Shannon was down and out for several weeks in the heart of the Tucson summer. Because we already had one daughter, there was no way for me to be able to leave the girls home alone, except when Rylie was napping. Yeah, that's right, as in afternoon naps. So for around 8 weeks in June and July of last year, I was putting in 10-17 hours of training per week, with almost all of it coming between 12 and 4 pm. To put it lightly I would say that I was driven.
Anyway, lots of time mileage, sweat, and blood have been laid out and I made it to collegiate nationals. The trip went something like this: on Thursday, leave Tucson around 10 am, arrive in Lubbock, Texas at 1 am...yep, that's a 12-hour drive. Of course we HAD to get up for the free breakfast, so around 6 hours of sleep. Friday was a tune-up brick in the morning followed by a visit to the racecourse. Not exactly the most exciting terrain. Mostly flat with grass and farmland. I think I saw about 8 trees in Lubbock. Drove to transition and hopped in the water for a quick swim. It was pretty chilly, somewhere in the low 50's. Also there was a ton of debris in the water; took a couple sticks in the ear...
Then took a drive of the entire bike course with our navigator/fearless leader Brian Grasky. It was AWESOME to talk through the whole course: take it easy here, push for this section, this is the smoothest part of the road, etc. Just awesome. Rest of Friday was pretty mellow. Packet pick-up followed by a LOOOOOOOONG wait at Olive Garden for dinner. Then finished putting on race numbers, packed bags, and ready to go!
Woke up around 4:45, oatmeal in the microwave, and COFFEE!! I had "caffeine-tapered" for four days, which essentially meant I had been dealing with a headache the ENTIRE time. Double-check my transition bag, and out the door. Arrived at transition with plenty of time to spare. It was COLD!! I didn't realize it at the time, but the air temp was in the 30s! Went through typical pre-race stuff, mostly taking it easy and trying not to psych myself out too much.
The swim went pretty well! It was cold, but I found my groove fairly early and just hung in there. I got stuck in a later wave, so I got out in front of my wave...which meant no drafting :(. Anyway, hung in there and made it out. GET ME TO MY BIKE!
So around 200 yards out of transition there was a killer little hill. I was following my expert coach's advice (spin up easy!), but suddenly had a BAD cramp in my left hamstring. I tried not to panic, but some part of me thought my day was over. I have never cramped during a race, and for it to happen that early really scared me. I told myself to keep going and spin it out, and it finally worked after around 20 minutes. YAY! The rest of the bike was fairly uneventful. Paseed a TON of people and was passed by maybe 5, but I definitely held my own. I finally started to feel really good on the bike...when it was time to head back into transition :( I did not want to get off my bike.
T2 went smoothly as usual, and I was off! I was nervous to get my butt kicked on the run, as lately running has been my weakness. I was happy to see that I passed more people than passed me! I think that is the first time it has happened. I felt okay overall on the run, but felt like I couldn't push myself as hard as I wanted to.
So, my race panned out like this: 2:24 and change. It turns out that the swim was marked VERY long (like over 300 m long). Also, the bike course turned out to be harder than most of us had anticipated, with some small but strategically-placed hills, and a headwind on the second half. This added up to a non-PR day (I was hoping for sub 2:10). BUT I was 124th out of the men, which beat the heck out of my original goal of top 200. Also, my bike was in the top 100, so that was a reason to walk away with a smile.
When you put that much emphasis on one event it can never live up to your expectations. Worse yet, something can go wrong (flat tire, GI distress or whatever) and you feel like it was all a waste. For me, I was WAY off my PR goal, but I beat my placement goal, which is really what matters I guess.
So, what's next? I basically consider this the end of my collegiate triathlon career, but NOT my triathlon career. I am going to take what I learned and run with it to see what I can achieve over the rest of 2009. In the short-term I'll be focusing on running and swimming. Coach Grasky's advice was to enter every running race I can find, go out too hard, and try to hang on as long as possible. Sound scary? It is to me. However, I had my first 5k last Saturday, and it worked (PR of over 1:00!). Yeah, that's right. I took a grand total of two days off after nationals :) I have a three or four races in May and June, then Vineman 70.3 in July. Bring it on!
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